Saturday, April 30, 2005

View of the New Building of the Sacre-Cœur, c.1896. Renoir. Posted by Hello
Electric "liberation": "After two years and $1.2 billion, U.S. effort to resuscitate electrical system is wide of its mark."
"Ivy League colleges lead boom in student-run porn magazines"
From Israeli "scholarship"--what Scott Sherman and the Nation will not investigate: ""Among Arabs, you will not find the phenomenon so typical of Judeo-Christian culture: doubts, a sense of guilt, the self-tormenting approach, `Maybe we weren't entirely OK,' or `Maybe we need to act or react differently.' These phenomena are totally unknown in Arab-Islamic society, toward outsiders. They have no doubts about their positions or the justice of their side. They have no sense of guilt that they may have erred. They have neither twinges of conscience nor any regrets that they may have done wrong to anyone else ... The phenomenon of the murderers by suicide, sometimes called suicide bombers, is an absolute indication. There is no condemnation, no regret, no problem of conscience among Arabs and Muslims, anywhere, in any social stratum, of any social position." (Dr David Bukay, "The First Cultural Flaw in Thinking: The Arab Personality," from Bukay's book "Arab-Islamic Political Culture: A Key Source to Understanding Arab Politics and the Arab-Israeli Conflict." Bukay teaches at the University of Haifa. Bukay will now receive an avalanche of job offers from US universities.
Count Me Out: If Bush and the Lebanese right-wing opposition are for freedom, then I oppose freedom; if Hariri is Mr. Lebanon--as Robert Fisk calls him--then I support Mr./Ms. Potato Head as Prime Minister for Lebanon; if Islamic fundamentalism has answers for Middle East problems, then I want the problems to be unsolved; if Syria and North Korea are "democracies" then I oppose democracies; if the Iraq war was about "liberation", then I oppose liberation; if the Nation magazine stands for Justice in the Middle East, then I oppose Justice in the Middle East; if Feminist Majority represents Feminism, then I oppose feminism; if Kofi Annan represents "international legitimacy" then I oppose international legitimacy; if Jesse Jackson speaks for the downtrodden, then I oppose the downtrodden; if Larry King is supposed to be entertaining, then I want to be bored; if King Fahd is the Guardian of the Two Holy Sites, then I do not want the Holy Sites to be guarded; and if Israel is a "light unto the nations", I want to sink in darkness, NOW.
Scott Sherman Watch: Why Arab Wogs Should Behave If I were to use the journalistic methods of Scott Sherman I would easily say that I heard from an "unimpeachable source" that his difficulty with truthfulness is not new. He calls my friend Joseph Massad "a man who favors rigid thinking and coarse rhetoric." Was Sherman assigned by the Nation magazine to pyscho-analyze Joseph or to investigate the war on Middle East studies at Columbia by Zionist hoodlums from outside the university? I never recall the Nation calling Ariel Sharon a "man who favors rigid thinking." But then again, the Nation--given its admiration of Oslo process and its publishing of ads by ultra-Likud groups, may very well be a fan of Ariel Sharon. And among the negative labels that Sherman affixes to Joseph (as a stigma) is "proud." Proud! How dare he be proud? How dare Arabs, and Palestinians in particular, be proud when they are supposed to be submissive, humiliated, and subservient to their masters? How dare this Arab professor be proud when US war is supposed to have settled the matter, and humiliated all Arabs? Why can't Joseph be like other Arab wogs who act submissively and meekly, and only speak when spoken to, and always in respectful tones, and always while observing the etiquette of superior polite Western societies who take strong offense to any criticisms of Zionism. Why can't Joseph be like other Arab wogs in the US who beg for the US to spread Western civilization throughout the region. How dare Joseph not succumb to the pressures, and consider Israel a "light unto the nations"? How dare Joseph not accept the Oslo process? Sherman also takes Joseph on for being "uncompromising" on the Palestinian question. Uncompromising? Compare to whom? To Israel? To the David Project? To Campus Watch? Uncompromising? The victims are supposed to be compromising about their victimizers? Ya, why cannot the victims of brutal occupation be compromising? Why don't they lick the boots of the occupation soldiers, and beg for more civilizing missions?

Compare this man to Arab ministers of defense. You may yell obscenities while doing so. Posted by Hello

Iraqis: "liberated" near Mosul. Posted by Hello
Angry Arab and Unpopularity Contests: Whenever I speak to mainstream establishment groups--and I often do, like World Affairs Council, I feel out of place. I feel like a drunken at a Ramadan Iftar, or like a clothed person at a nudist colony, or like Bush at a scientific convention, or like Ahmad Chalabi at the annual meeting of Transparency International, or like John Bolton at the UN--wait, he is heading to the UN. OK, forget about the last one. It is just that such gatherings often operate within the parameters of "differences" between the two parties, but not more. I felt that today. In fact, I could tell my audience's disapproval of me this afternoon. The chair of my panel said after a very tepid applause after my talk (on the "Bush Doctrine and Lebanon") that this was due to my bleak prognosis and not to my presentation per se. He was trying to be protective. He did not know that I relish my audience's disapproval. While I would never run in popularity contests, I would seriously consider running in unpopularity contests, and would hope to win too.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The Nation and the Middle East Part II: My dear friend Joseph Massad wrote an excellent critique of the lousy piece on the war on Middle East studies at Columbia University in the ostensibly leftist Nation magazine. American leftists--especially in the Nation which is still in mourning over the collapse of the Oslo process because it has believed all along that the Palestinians deserve some 10% of their homeland and not the 22% that they have been demanding--as if it is sufficient to satisfy legitimate Palestinian national aspirations. Also, the Nation always believes that Israelis are the ones who are qualified to criticize Israel, but not the Arabs. They always follow the standards of Israel-centric arguments, and, like the Tikkun magazine crowd, was critical of the Israeli occupation of West Bank and Gaza (but not of the rest) only because it worried about its psychological impact on the "soul" of the Israeli occupation soldier. On his part, Scott Sherman, who seems to believe that you need to blame the victim for his victimhood, offers a typically weak and vapid response to the letters that reached the Nation, and only a handful of which were published. Sherman, as Angry Arab was told by inside sources, scrambled to find one token critical Arab to offer him praise in this section of the letters to the Nation but alas could not find any. And if the mainstream Washington Post does not print a news item that is not based on at least two sources, Sherman--you shall notice--is satisfied with one anonymous source merely to smear Joseph Massad. This is like me saying that an "an unimpeachable source" told me that Sherman made up his "unimpeachable source." That is his (il)logic, or his journalistic standard. And notice, that Sherman inexplicable vengeful attitude permeates not only his original article but also this pathetic attempt at a response. He only refers to the Ad Hoc Committee report to again smear Joseph, and seems to change the tone of the report to make it more damning of Joseph. And Sherman's obsession to attack Joseph is such that while he grudgingly concedes that the report did indeed refer to praise for Joseph as a teacher by his students, but then goes on to refer to "highly charged vocabulary". What does that mean? Was it charged with electric or nuclear power, we are not told. And for the life of me, Sherman does not refer to words of praise but to the unsubstantiated negative comments. Such are the standards of the Nation magazine when it comes to the Middle East. Or perhaps the Nation is being influenced by those rabid anti-Arab ads that they regularly publish and Victor Navasky justified purely on financial grounds.
What happened to the counter, Neal? The entire figure of the counter has been erased? Neal! to Asilomar to speak ("Lebanon and Bush Doctrine?") at the World Affairs Council annual conference. Will return on Saturday evening. For refreshments, go here.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Noirmoutier, 1892. Renoir. Posted by Hello
"Organisers of a series of pro-democracy demonstrations in Egypt say police arrested about 75 people in connection with protests held across the country."
Each Lebanese era has its taboos. During the Syrian era, nobody was allowed to criticize Asad (father, son, nephew, uncle, brother, etc). In the new Saudi-France-US era of Lebanon, nobody is allowed to mention the obvious--not a single Lebanese newspaper dared to mention it--: that Rafiq Hariri was indeed the force behind UNSC 1559. It was "his baby" as one UN official told the Times of London.
Iraq has a partial cabinet. You are supposed to celebrate.
More boring than Larry King is Jane Fonda talking about her "spiritual journey." And she says that it is hard for her to talk about it, and yet she seems to not being able to stop talking about it although whenever she does I get a strong urge to...slice potatoes.
I cannot stand it when the Arabic press publish interviews with pathetic Saddam fans/lawyers who want to talk to us in details about Saddam's health. Saddam's health? We are supposed to care? I would rather care about the health of the survivors of Saddam's prison camps, and about the health of the Iraqi people under Saddam and then under US occupation. I just wish that the Arab media would ignore those Saddam's lawyers. Oh, but I know that Ramsey Clark is very worried about Saddam's health.
"A Polish priest at the Vatican was accused Wednesday of collaborating with the communist-era secret police during the 1980s."
"U.S. to Avoid Confrontation in Lebanon" (I wonder why)
Full text. Legal advice to the PM of UK.
Guess which deep thinker said those words: "In short, I don't much care how the U.N. works as a bureaucracy; I care about how often it can be enlisted to support, endorse and amplify U.S. power. That is what serves our national interest."
"The Catholic Church and the world"
Kudos to the new Minister of Labor in Lebanon: I had previously mocked his unbelievable ideological transformations and oscillations. But I just heard his statement about the Palestinians in Lebanon, the ever forgotten victims. He expressed his outrage that they are "legally" banned from 72 different professions and occupations. He called for bringing an end to that discriminatory practice. Everybody has participated in oppressing (and killing) the Palestinians in Lebanon: the Israelis, the Syrian army (especially through the "war of the camps", the Lebanese Army which only shows its heroism against Palestinian civilians in the country, the right-wing forces and militias, and the Amal Movement. And you wonder why Palestinians in Lebanon are not inclined to surrender their weapons?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Mosque (Arab Holiday), 1881. Renoir. (Notice that Arabs in classical Orientalist paintings were, and still are in Western media photography, always a mob, or an indistinguishable blob). Posted by Hello
"United States: trade in torture"
"Once taboo words 'civil war' now spoken in Iraq"
"U.S. Learning in Iraq, Officials Say". This is an actual headline from the Los Angeles Times; and the actual article is more dumb than the headline.
"US faces increasingly left-leaning Latin America"
Is this for real? Are you kidding me? Is this supposed to be the new excuse? "The American who led the hunt for Iraq's missing weapons of mass destruction has revealed that the investigation was cut short after he was targeted by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the militant leader in an attack that left two people dead. The head of the Iraq Survey Group, Charles Duelfer, has reported that his investigation into the possible transfer of WMD to Syria had been wound up because of the "declining security situation"."
I get frustrated when I learn some information that I cannot use on Angry Arab News Service. Just now, an American reporter in the Middle East told me some juicy information but he/she requested that I do not post on the site. So I am just teasing you, I guess.
"In Cairo, Friday is military day"
"An American teenager was banned from a high school prom parade after he turned up wearing a kilt."
So how is Bush doing in his "war on terrorism"? "There was a three-fold increase in terrorist attacks worldwide last year and Iraqi insurgents have the same capacity to strike that they did 12 months ago, according to the US government and military. The number of terrorist attacks the US considers "significant" rose to 655 in 2004 from 175 in 2003, according to US state department figures released by a senior Democrat in congress."
You know that I think that the Economist is the best magazine there is. But I must confess that the quality of their Middle East coverage has been going down. Their recent article in the last issue on Shi`ite theological schools in South Lebanon is full of errors. They totally miss the point of Shi`ite politics in present-day Lebanon. Days after the issue was released, `Abdul-Amir Qabalan (whom they made to be a quasi secularist) was in Iran on an official trip. I say, the magazine needs a new correspondent in Lebanon.
Mubarak Marathan Interviews must mean one thing only: he has become fully aware of how unpopular he has become. Throughout the interviews (and I still have a part of part III that I have not seen) he was very defensive, trying--with obvious effort--to promote himself, but the help of Adib's hagiographic approach will only hurt the propaganda campaign. In conclusion, Mubarak summarized his life as "hard labor in the service of the Egyptian people." I summarize my experience in watching his interviews as "hard labor in the service of the Angry Arab News Service."
A Saudi human rights organization reports that a Saudi lawyer has been arrested for visiting a "banned" website more than a year ago. In other news, Bush praises "reforms" in Saudi Arabia.

The Lebanese Bush: so the Lebanese student groups (representing Hizbullah, Amal, Lebanese communist Party, SSNP, Phalanges (or one element), Maradah movement of Sulayman Franjiyyah, Tawhid Movement, Tahrir Party, The Grouping of Popular Leagues and Committees, and others) that have been staging peaceful demonstrations outside of the US embassy in Lebanon, held their 8th demonstration yesterday, to the dismay of the US government which--according to the Lebanese press--has been pressuring the Lebanese government to stop those "unchic" demonstrations, that Bush cannot brag about here in the US. In yesterday's event: the demonstrators dressed a Lebanese person as Bush (in "cowboy" clothes), and had him read a provocative speech about what he is doing in Iraq, and what he plans to do in Lebanon. As he was reading the speech, the demonstrators got so angry that they started to beat the fake Bush (complete with fake secret service) with sticks. The MC had to remind the audience that this was NOT the real Bush, and that this is a fake Bush. Only then did the audience calm down. Posted by Hello

Waiting at a Gaza crossing, after Israeli occupation closed all entry points. Posted by Hello
Full text. HRW: "U.S.: Abu Ghraib Only the 'Tip of the Iceberg'"
"Columbia Unbecoming: An internal memo urges retaliation against pro-union graduate students. (thanks Joseph)

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Field of Banana Trees, 1881. Renoir. (Who else can make a field of banana trees look as interesting?)
 Posted by Hello
For those who care, a transcript of my interview this morning on Democracy Now.
"Satirist Continues To Prove Himself A Royal Pain"
Justice is served, again: "U.S. Clears Troops in Italian's Death"
There is no organization that has produced more right-wing thinkers, writers, opportunists, intellectuals, and Hariri advocates in Lebanonb than the Communist Action Organization (in Lebanon). I do not know why. What is it Muhsin Ibrahim? I shall ask him in June.
Recycling Conventional Right-wing Wisdom about Lebanon: Look at this story by Nicholas Blanford in CSMonitor with this headline: "With Syria out, Lebanon clout grows." Nothing about the clout of the US, France, and Saudi Arabia. Also notice how the US media and pro-Saudi Arab press, how they interview the same people. Here Blanford interviews right-wing Lebanese Michael Young who expresses the superiority of the Lebanese people--in all aspects--over the Syrians. Lebanese ultra-nationalism/racism/chauvinism is now the trend: and it gets the attention of the US media. The rest of Lebanon is ignored. Developments in Lebanon will force them to reconsider. Just wait. US media always have to catch up with international stories. They rarely--if ever--get it right.
"Israeli settlers poisoning our sheep, say West Bank farmers"
This is the "peace" process: "The Pentagon notified Congress on Tuesday of a proposed sale to Israel of 100 guided bunker-busting bombs, a move that analysts said could prompt concerns about a unilateral Israel strike against Iran."
"The Gulf state of Qatar is considering privatising its satellite TV channel, al-Jazeera, because of pressure from the US and a de facto advertising boycott by Arab countries offended by its critical coverage."
"Mexico City's elderly prostitutes find shelter"
Propaganda for the Crown: It is amazing how the New York Times (and the Washington Post) serve the cause of the Emperor. Here, the New York Times feels obligated to explain or justify why Bush held Crown Prince `Abdullah's hand: "Mr. Bush even held the crown prince's hand, a traditional Saudi sign of friendship." Who told the New York Times that? Must be Friedman or Fattah. I met many Saudis over the years, and none held my hand "as a traditional Saudi sign of friendship." And by the way, what is the traditional sign of American friendship? I need to know. In Italy, by the way: holding somebody's shoes is a "traditional Italian sign of friendship."
Hassan Fattah is in Lebanon. Hassan Fattah is in Lebanon. Please serve him Hummus, with olive oil, please. He now is covering Lebanon from Lebanon, for the first time in a while. Typically, he interviews two Lebanese "analysts": both are supporters/leaders of the right-wing Christian sectarian opposition.
I wish to salute Ziad Rahbani, Fayruz, and Marcel Khalife for refusing the pressures to participate in the Hummus Revolution and the Hariri, Inc carnivals.

Israeli occupier showing his toughness to a Palestinian. Posted by Hello
Saudi Foreign Minister told the Arab media that Bush and US officials DID NOT mention internal Saudi matters during the official talks between Bush and `Abdullah.
The Youth of the Lebanese right-wing Opposition: Spare me. The right-wing and sectarian LBC-TV assembled a group of Lebanese young people (all males except for one "independent" female). All but one were Christians, and one could be either--I could not tell. One guy with a Che Guevara t-shirt kept appearing in the background of the program behind the guests, and LBC people kept pushing him away. Che is big among young Lebanese, and especially among the rich brats of LAU and AUB, who do not even know who he was, and what he represented. They just like him because he is good-looking and chic. They do not know how Che fled his middle class life to learn about the poor of South America. Che in Lebanon? This is like saying "the Marxist Bush." And those interviewed were supposed to represent the future Lebanon. What future? The young representative of the Ahrar Party was from the Sham`un family (direct descendant of the family of the founder), and the representative of the Phalanges' Base was a Gemayyel (a direct descendant of the family of the founder). Those sectarian dynasties represent hope for Lebanon? How could they? Walid Jumblat was on; he was back to the old Arab nationalist Jumblat, but I will let you know what he will stand for next week. He was very awkward in explaining his positions over the last few months; he attributed his one-time praise for the US war in Iraq to "the turmoil" and "anxiety" that followed Hariri's assassination. New TV has aired copies of withdrawn checks by the departing head of Syrian mukhabarat in Lebanon, the notorious Rustum Ghazalah, along with his brothers, relatives, etc. The amount is in the millions of dollars. Owner of New TV, Tahsin Khayyat, had these incriminating documents about Ghazalah for years, and Ghazalah knew about it, so he last year ordered the Lebanese military intelligence to arrest Khayyat on trumped up charges of espionage for Israel. Ghazalah then searched Khayyat's house for those documents. I read that Cheney, according to Saudi Foreign Minister, approved of the appointment of Sa`d Al-Hariri as successor to his father. Am I supposed to be impressed now? Does that make me feel more positively inclined toward the Hariri, Inc?

"When the moon hits your eye
Like a big-a pizza pie
That's amore
When the world seems to shine
Like you've had too much wine
That's amore" Posted by Hello
Which Country is more unpopular than Syria in Lebanon? Take a guess. No, it is not Micronesia. Try again. Yes. You guessed right. It is the US. According to a national Zogby poll conducted in Lebanon, US is more opposed than Syria by a sample of the Lebanese population:
Roles of Countries or Organizations in Lebanon (%)
All: Support/oppose
United States 30/69
Syria 37/61
Hizballah 74/23
France 45/54
United Nations 53/45
The rest of the poll verifies my assumptions about the Lebanese population and its orientations. You will find that the Sunnis' are not that far from Shi`ite orientations. The composition of the opposition becomes clear, in sectarian and political terms. You judge for yourselves. But I am hearing from Lebanon that Lebanese Sunnis are increasingly disgusted with right-wing sectarian Maronite forces, like Lebanese Forces, Gemayyels, and `Awnis. It think that this explains the speech that Strida Ja`ja` made a few days ago, in which she sounded like a Lebanese Ba`thist. (thanks Laurie)

Monday, April 25, 2005

Doges' Palace, Venice, 1881. Renoir. Posted by Hello
Angry "Pope prayed not to be elected."...And he was elected Pope. Does that not make my point for me? It can only mean that God--whatever that is--does NOT answer prayers.
A few weeks ago, US military leaders were asserting that the Iraqi insurgency was "waning." Now, "experts say insurgents have retaken momentum as politicians 'dither' over cabinet posts."
Mubarak is back in Part II: Terrorism and Kabab. I watched the second installment of the marathon interview with Husni Mubarak. The questions were far more annoying than before. And the "secret" and silent command center I mentioned was not only for the Air Force, but for the entire Armed Forces of Egypt. Now we know why it was dead silent. The president was asked about his aversion to taking credit, about his modesty, about his wisdom, about his "developing of a special thermometer to measure the sincerity or insincerity of people that he deals with"--that was an actual question, I swear, and about his reputation that he never makes decisions rashly, and that he consults with a large number of people. It was interesting how defensive Mubarak was about the joint military maneuvers that his forces conduct with US troops. But he said those joint military maneuvers with "Italian, British, French, Saudi.." and then added as an afterthought--and in passing--and "US forces" do not in any way harm the precious Egyptian sovereignty. He said it was good to learn about other militaries' methods and weapons. At one point, when Mubarak finished answering a question, Adib (see post from yesterday) told him: "That was a very intelligent answer." How pathetic are Arab regimes. How desperate they are for victories that they have to go back in history to draw upon real or imagined victories. I am told that in Part III, Mubarak will talk about his heroic role in the Arab conquest of Spain in 710 AD. Apparently, Mubarak was a military advisor for Tariq Bin Ziyad, and led his Air Force. The top secret command center was silent as usual. Again, I only once heard a voice. I was able to decipher the words of the Israeli Minister of Defense yelling in a speakerphone: "Mubarak. Go to sleep. It is late already." At that point, Adib finished the interview, or that part of the marathon interview.
The marathon interviews were "directed" by veteran Egyptian director, Sharif `Arafah, who directed, among other films, Al-Irhab Wa-l-Kabab. (Terrorism and Kabab)
Syrian troops have finally left Lebanon. Their entry in 1976 was to rescue the right-wing Maronite sectarian forces, and their withdrawal today will empower the right-wing Maronite sectarian forces. The Syrian army leaves behind a large collection of corrupt, unprincipled, and ruthless Lebanese politicians who were installed by Syrian intervention, and who are now the loudest critics of Syria. These were the same people who used to take orders from the head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, and will now scramble to find some other foreign officer to take orders from. The undemocratic security regime that was put in place by the Syrian regime in Lebanon would not have worked or lasted without the active participation of so many Lebanese. But since when are the Lebanese willing or able to engage in self-criticism--the real act, and not the fake Leninist one? This is the dirty nature of Lebanese politics. But who will the Lebanese people blame now for their failures, corruption, deceptions, conflicts, and blunders? They may go back to blaming the Palestinians in Lebanon. Syrian intervention in the past was justified as "brotherly Arab" support, and French-US-Saudi intervention will now be justified as "international legitimacy." Will this country ever be really independent? NO.
A Saudi human rights organization is reporting that a member of a counter-terrorism unit in Saudi Arabia was arrested because he dared to criticize the government in an interview with AlJazeera.
Here in the US, all the news reports stress the economic nature of the Bush-`Abdullah meeting. One Saudi newspaper declared in a headline that the topic of discussion between the two leaders is "Palestine, Palestine, Palestine." Oh, ya.

"I cannot believe how good looking you are up close. How do you say "crush" in Arabic?" Posted by Hello
Zizek is in town. His fans are thrilled.
When Israelis--any Israeli--die, the New York Times reporters write their obituaries using their own tears, instead of ink. Here is one about Ezer Weizman. As usual, the NYT re-writes the history of Arab-Israeli wars; the writers--it took two to write this obitaury for some reason--states: "He was the military's chief of operations in 1967, when the Arab forces, led by Egypt, began gearing up for a coordinated offensive against Israel. On the morning of June 5, Israel launched a pre-emptive attack..." Of course, there is absolutely no evidence that the Arabs were planning for a coordinated offensive against Israel, especially that the main countries (Syria, Jordan, and Egypt) were bitter rivals until several days if not hours before the war. Secondly, even when Israel attacks--i.e.TAKES the OFFENSIVE--it is referrred to as "pre-emptive attack." Would that language be used to refer to Palestinian political violence?
Apprently, one member of Crown Prince `Abdullah's delegation was denied entry into the US because he is on a "terrorist watch list."

I of course do not care about protocol and do not observe it. But this picture from today's meeting between the two is interesting. Last time the two met, it was a disaster (there was a long article on that by Elsa Walsh in New Yorker last year), and the Crown Prince was offended so many times by Bush, especially when the latter led him in Christian prayers during dinner or lunch. This one is another classic. You would think that some people in the White House would brief Bush about cultural issues and habits of the Middle East. It is highly offensive in the culture for a host to greet his guest with his legs open like that, especially if he is younger than the guest. But who cares? Posted by Hello
His name is Dexter Filkins, and he is Baghdad correspondent for the New York Times. He was on C-Span, and Angry Arab thought that this would be a great opportunity to learn of NYT operations in Iraq, or Middle East. "We are so lucky to have people who can do this," that was his reference to US military occupation forces in Iraq. He said that US reporters always have a backup car of armed man behind the main car just to stay safe. There were several times in the interview when he talked about "my translator." But not once did he pay tribute to his bodyguards, potato slicers, chefs, valets, butlers, and personal trainers. He was interviewed just before the escalating violence in Iraq in the last week. But he used his NYT-derived wisdom and prophetic skills, to make optimistic predictions for the country--days after the predictions of peace, Iraq exploded, of course. (He did mention in passing "the Sunnis, who did not vote.") He said, very proudly, that he does not live in the Green Zone. He said that he lived in the "Red Zone" to be among the Iraqi people. I thought that this--to be fair and balanced--was quite impressive. Here was a news operation that is not confined to the Green Zone. But he explained where he works from: well, the New York Times operates out--and the reporters live in--A COMPOUND. These are two houses, and the NYT contracted outside extra work for extra security and special fortifications worthy of the great newspaper and its special reporters, for high walls. They have armed security guards in and out of the "compound" and they have big security lights for extra caution. He recommend that a US reporter spends no more than 5--yes, FIVE--minutes--in the street talking--through translators of course--to people. When asked about how he felt covering so many car bomb stories with so many dead bodies. He explained: "these are mostly Iraqis, and people that I did not know," he said. What was tough was covering Fallujah where some of the dead and injured were Americans, he added. He also observed that you cannot but conclude that the US war on Afghanistan was a "just war." After listening to him for an hour, I cannot but conclude that he is not qualified to offer any commentaries on the Middle East.
PS After posting this, I received an email from an American correspondent in Baghdad, who wishes to remain anonymous. He/she tells me that the NYT hired a private security firm to be in charge of their protection, and that uniformed Iraqi guards stand outside for extra protection. He/she told me more about Filkins but I cannot use for security reasons--I do care about the safety of journalists, all journalists, especially in a dangerous place like "liberated" Iraq.
He is back! He is Back. Hassan Fattah is Back Covering Lebanon...from Dubai for the New York Times, having previously covered it from..Jordan. Next week, he will continue to cover Lebanon from...China. Now, Fattah may not know Lebanon well, but please give him credit for trying. He at least regularly consults with right-wing sectarian personalities, and here he interviewed--as usual--Jubran Tuwayni--one of the most fanatical right-wing sectarian Christian journalists--who unlike his father--cannot even write Arabic. He also interviewed a former communist extremist, turned right-wing, pro-Saudi writer, Waddah Shararah.
PS: do not embarrass Hassan Fattah. Don't tell his editors that he cannot even get the year of the beginning of the civil war right. Here he tells readers that the civil war broke out in 1976, when everybody knows that it broke out in 1975. Be patient. He is not good with dates. In fact, Fattah has always been under the impression that WWII happened before WWI. But he is willing to try harder. Did he not prove himself when he apprenticed at the feet of Marty Peretz of the New Republic? Does he not hold the dubious honor of being the first token Arab to write for the rabid anti-Arab New Republic? Give him a break and get a beverage, NOW.

What can you say? What am I to make of this image? Do you really need to comment on this picture? This is not a simple issue. It speaks louder than expensive US propaganda efforts in the Middle East. Here is the man (Bush) who does not stop talking about spreading "freedom" in the Middle East, holding the hand of the symbol of Arab oppression, the head of an archaic religious dictatorship which still stones people to death, still beheads poor people with a sword, still sentences people to lashes, still arrests people for worshiping "the wrong" religion. And you wonder why nobody in the Middle East takes Bush's claims about democracy seriously? Are you kidding me? Posted by Hello
Good demonstrations versus bad demonstrations: We all saw how giddy and delighted Bush and his cronies were in reacting to demonstrations in Lebanon. But what he has not told you is this: Lebanese students groups (Christian and Muslims, leftists and rightists) have been demonstrating--in the thousands--weekly infront of the US embassy in Beirut to protest US interferences in Lebanon, and US wars in the region. Apparently, the US government was not amused with those peaceful demonstrations. The Lebanese press has been reporting that the US government has been pressing the Lebanese government to stop those demonstrations. But in fairness, the US government has made it clear that they would not object to demonstrations that would cheer Bush and his wars.

Please write your own caption under this picture. Posted by Hello
For those who care: I will be interviewed tomorrow morning (at 5:00AM Pacific Time) on Democracy Now. You may listen live. The topic is Saudi Arabia.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Banks of the Seine at Asnieres, c.1879. Renoir. Posted by Hello
So who is behind the Iraqi insurgency this week? No, it is not Saddam, Syria, Iran, Bin Laden, Zarqawi, Saddam's briefcase, Saddam's intelligence chief, Iraqi Ba`thists in Syria, Saddam's sons, `Izzat Ad-Duri, Revolutionary Guards, or former Iraqi soldiers. This week it is "Leadership Void." Apparently, Leadership (or Mr./Ms. Void) has been fueling the insurgency from Syria. A search is underway to locate the whereabouts of Void, and when he/she is located and arrested, all will be well in Iraq.
"US military worried over change in Iraq attacks:
Sectarianism adds to fears of long US role"
"Once I overheard a sergeant instructing a private about a queue of shuffling Iraqis. "If one of them goes nuts, shoot him." His comrade's eyes brightened. "Yesssss!""
"A hidden army of more than 120,000 girls is working or fighting with armed groups around the world, and international programmes to help them often fail or make things worse, Save the Children says in a report published today."
"The Hebrew University in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University are closing their doors to Ethiopian students, especially those wishing to study in prestigious programs, Ethiopian activists and university graduates say."
"Spying: Giving Out U.S. Names"
Juan Cole on The new McCarthyism
On the eve of the meeting between Bush and Crown Prince `Abdullah, "Saudi Arabia has detained 40 Pakistani Christians for holding illegal prayers at a house."
Israel sends satellites into space (and we US taxpayers pay for them) in order to spy on Arab and Islamic countries. I just read in Al-Balad newspaper that the Islamic Congress Organization will utilize a satellite in space to...determine the beginning of months in the Muslim lunar calendar to mark holy days. (And some Wahhabi clerics said that satellite imaging would not do it for them. That their interpretation of Qu'an dictates that men--women are always inside in Wahhabi theology--see the moon from earth, and not from the skies.) I am really--no, REALLY, suffocating.
Husni Mubarak: Egyptian Air Force Command, Heart of Steal, and Heroism. To boost his sagging image and fortunes inside Egypt, Egyptian president Husni Mubarak (whose smiling face reminds Egyptians of this), has decided to take the propaganda offensive. He gave long hours of footage of interviews to former Orbit TV host, `Imad Id-Din Adib: the series will be running on Egypt TV and Al-Arabiyya TV. I saw Part I (not to be confused with Part 54). Mostly, Mubarak wants to remind young Egyptians of his heroism in the 1973 war. I hate official and non-official Arab claims about the 1973 war. So eager are Arab regimes for victories, that they have to draw on past (invented) victories form 32 years ago. And Adib is as sharp and penetrating an interviewer, and as challenging to people in power, as is...Larry King. One of his questions to Mubarak (I am not making this up): How do you reconcile between your firmness, strength, punctuality, and discipline, and between your good-heartness, civility, good-naturalness on the other hand? ("Experience", answered Mubarak). All of the first part dealt with Mubarak's heroism in the Air Force. I hate how Arab official and non-official propaganda talk about 1973 victory. What victory? Israel almost overran Syria and Egypt. Of course, in the beginning, both Syria and Egypt were winning, and Syrian and Egyptian troops fought very very well, but Egypt did not want to proceed, and Egyptian troops hunkered down, which only gave Israel the advantage especially after the beginning of the hitherto largest airlift in human history, when Nixon told Kissinger: "give them all that we have." And those regimes were and are more concerned over their own survival that they were and are willing to sacrifice the safety of troops and sovereignty of land to stay in power. And why this going back to this war that took place more than 30 years ago? For pure propaganda and the hope for additional political legitimacy--futile no doubt. And let me give you this simple lesson in Arab politics: from 1948 until 1973, the Syrian and Egyptian regimes oppressed their people under the pretext of preparing to fight Israel. And from 1973 until now, the Egyptian and Syrian regimes have oppressed their people under the pretext of having achieved the (bogus) victory of 1973. Adib at one point prefaced a question by "I apologize for this, but..." So you would assume a tough question is finally coming. Then Adib tossed the question: "this iron personality, which does not get frightened, does not despair, does not get depressed, etc, where is that from?" But the funniest part of me was the venue. They conducted most of the interview in a "secret" location and then settled in "the secret" Egyptian Air Force Command Center. What was striking was how unbusy that super secret center was. No phones were ringing, no lights were blinking, and no people were even visible in the background, and no sounds were audible. Only once I heard a background sound: I could decipher the words of the Israeli Minister of Defense yelling through a speakerphone: "Lower your voice Mubarak." Adib asked him about the military significance of Allahu Akbar (and it was the theme chant for the program--marathon interview, titled: A Word for History. Adib is famous for crying publicly when the rich and famous die. He cried publicly when actor Ahmad Zaki died, and he cried repeatedly when "his friend" Rafiq Hariri died. He went to Lebanon, with a TV crew on hand, and recited Qu'an on Hariri grave. There was no dry eye in..anybody's pocket that day. Funny, when Part I ended, the credit included "Director of orchestra" for the interview. And Arab "news" media dare to mock Fox News????
What Bush will NOT discuss with Crown Prince `Abdullah tomorrow: The case of Saudi "reformer" Sa`id bin Zu`ayr, who has been sentenced to four years in jail for daring to speak on Al-Jazeera TV. He is a professor of communication at the Imam Muhammad bin Sa`ud University. He will not be one of those "dissidents" that Bush and his cronies will praise as part of their love for "freedom-in-the- Middle-East" campaign.

Foreign Debt. Not shown is Lebanon's. Hariri was able--to his credit--to increase Lebanon's debt from $2 billion to $40 in 10 years only. What a record. Posted by Hello
"Time Covers Coulter: Magazine's Cover Story a Sloppy, Inaccurate Tribute to Far-Right Pundit."
There is an old trick favored by US media to prove that they are "objective." You see it on O'Reilly night every night: he concludes his program by reading two letters from "viewers"; one claiming that he was a "liberal" and the other claiming that he was a "conservative." This is intended to convince the fools among the viewers that he must be in the center to be attacked by both sides. That is what the New York Times did today in the section of the Public Editor. And what a name? Why Public? Did the Public select him for that job? Of course, not. He was selected by the Publisher, so he is the Publisher's Editor. And basically, this fellow concludes that the New York Times is quite fair and balanced (wait--that sounds familiar)in its coverage of the Arab-Israeli conflict. And yet, he timidly and very reservedly agrees that maybe the correspondents of the Times should try to experience life among Palestinians: "A reporter based in secular, Europeanized Tel Aviv would experience an Israel vastly different from one living in Jerusalem; a reporter with a home in Ramallah would most likely find an entirely different world. The Times ought to give it a try." But my favorite part is when the deputy editor of the Times, a fanatic Zionist, concedes that the Times does not abide by UN resolutions and standards of the Arab-Israeli conflict, and that the settlements are not necessarily illegal. Anybody who reads the Times in order to be informed, will never be informed.
How propaganda works: All international media has extensive coverage of the growing violence in Iraq, and the New York Times is busy covering--on its front page, with a picture--the news that the "Iraqi Army graduated 314 soldiers." Maybe I am missing something, but what is the significance of that? Also, Arab media are now explaining the reason for the prolonged delays in the formation of the Iraqi cabinet. Apparently, it all was due to a surprise visit by Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq, in which he expressed his opposition to the plan by the Iraqi prime minister-designate (Ibrahim Al-Ja`fari) to get rid of the Ba`thist `Allawi thugs who fill the security/military/intelligence agencies of the Iraqi puppet government. Rumsfeld made it clear that the US wants those Ba`thist criminals to stay where they are.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Banks of the Seine at Champrosay, 1876. Renoir. Posted by Hello
News from "liberated" Afghanistan: "Afghanistan woman stoned to death" (thanks Earl)
Angry "Pope Tells Journalists To Search For 'Truth'" (but not about his Nazi youth)
The United States should name a special prosecutor to investigate the culpability of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and ex-CIA Director George Tenet in cases of detainee torture and abuse, Human Rights Watch said in releasing a new report today.
"Insurgent Violence Escalates In Iraq"--Bush continues to spread "freedom" in the Middl East.
When Bush meets with Crown Prince `Abdullah: will he discuss "freedom" with him? I am sure. Bush's "freedom" is not insonsistent with the House of Oppression in Saudi Arabia.
"Islamists make strong showing in Saudi election" (elections in which some of the 50 percent of the population who are men will get to select 50 percent of the seats)
I heard on C-Span today that Thomas Friedman's first book (From Tabbulah to Falafil, or something along those lines) is "widely used in high schools and on college campuses." At least now we can explain American public ignorance of the Middle East.
Hariri Inc, which did so much to corrupt political life in Lebanon in cooperation with the Syrian regime, has selected a successor to Rafiq Hariri. In the new political context of Lebanon, it will now become more difficult in Lebanon to speak against Hariri and against the cruel globalization model that he imposed on Lebanon. They will now use the ghost of Hariri to silence critics. Even the Lebanese Communist Party and Hizbullah now call Hariri "martyr." The Hariri Inc called for the appointment of "neutral people" to the Lebanese cabinet to manage the parliamentary elections. Even the birds in Lebanon are not neutral. The newly formed Lebanese cabinet was praised by Hariri Inc, and the ministers were praised as neutral. Now I know why. The ministers of Justice and Interior used to work on Hariri's political campaign. These are the standards of Hariri Inc.
"Terrified US soldiers are still killing civilians with impunity, while the dead go uncounted"
The near complete monopoly of Saudi Arabia over Arab media is such that nobody is reporting what is going on in the London-based Saudi newspaper Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat. Apparently, the newspaper got scared after a British court ruled against Az-Zaman newspaper for a story on the wife of the Amir of Qatar. So Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat (owned by Prince Salman) decided to move its operations from London to Dubai. And many of the staffers were fired, and they have demonstrated outside of the offices and nobody is reporting about that. Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat (adhering to the new Arab regimes' formula of expediting normalizing with Israel and delaying meaningful reforms to appease Bush) today was busy reporting that Sharon likes poetry and that he reads the poems of Mahmud Darwish. Spare me.
Ghassan Salamah who just turned down a ministerial appointment in Lebanon (and who served as advisor to the UN representative in Iraq) spoke to a radio station on Iraqi developments. He blasted the sectarian system in Lebanon and called for secularization of the country (which I wholeheartedly support of course). He also lamented the emulation of the Lebanese sectarian system in Iraq. He said that the recent Iraqi election was not an election, but a "sectarian census." Kudos Ghassan.
"Three American police officers who were caught on video handcuffing a disruptive five-year-old at her nursery school are under investigation."
"Israeli army 'lied' about Miller death"
Justice is served: "Top US officers cleared of Abu Ghraib abuse". The entire affair is now blamed on... Syrian troops in Iraq.
Angry "Pope 'obstructed' sex abuse inquiry"

Friday, April 22, 2005

Conversation with the Gardener, c.1875. Renoir. Posted by Hello
"Turks and Armenians: Forgotten holocaust"

Women in Parliament (from Economist) Posted by Hello
The Pope’s Failures (By Slavoj Zizek)
Armenian Genocide
Not even during the Cold War years, did Foreign Affairs print such crude propaganda (not even polemics): "Four years later, however, a president who had "planted the flag of liberty" in Arab lands had no choice but to take up the cause of Lebanon's independence." (Also note how much Ajami praises the right-wing sectarian Christian newspaper, An-Nahar).
Angry Pope on Galileo's trial: "At the time of Galileo the Church remained much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself. The process against Galileo was reasonable and just"
"After 100 days, Palestinian leader's aura begins to fade" (it should have taken 100 nanoseconds)
I hear these days that Rafiq Hariri was opposed in principle to the appointment or election of people with security/military backgrounds to public office in Lebanon. Not true. From the late 1980s onwards, Hariri worked hard to install his ally, the notorious Johny `Abduh--former head of the brutal Lebanese intelligence service in the war years--as president.
"A state department report which showed an increase in terrorism incidents around the world in 2004 was altered to strip it of its pessimistic statistics"
"And boy, does it take off. Predictably, Friedman spends the rest of his huge book piling one insane image on top of the other, so that by the end—and I'm not joking here—we are meant to understand that the flat world is a giant ice-cream sundae that is more beef than sizzle, in which everyone can fit his hose into his fire hydrant, and in which most but not all of us are covered with a mostly good special sauce. Moreover, Friedman's book is the first I have encountered, anywhere, in which the reader needs a calculator to figure the value of the author's metaphors." (thanks Ghida)

Angry Arab with his students at Model UN last week. Posted by Hello (thanks Ninus for the picture)
UK "Academics have voted to boycott two Israeli universities over their alleged involvement in "illegal activity" in the occupied territories." (thanks Joseph)
"Young girls who enjoy classic romantic fairy tales like "Cinderella" and "Beauty and the Beast" are at greater risk of becoming victims of violent relationships in later life, a British researcher says." (thanks Maryam)
"Arab League-UNICEF report reveals more than 10 million children in Arab world are out of school." (thanks anonymous)
Amnesty International: "Stop attacks on Syrian workers and bring perpetrators to justice" the Arab world. Read all about it. So Elizabeth Cheney was on the official American TV for the Arab world (i.e. AlArabiyya). The interview was--typically of AlArabiyya--sprinkled with smiles and excessive courtesy, and you get that if you are a US official appearing on AlArabiyya. Cheney, as you know, is depurty Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East, having received advanced degrees in Middle East studies from...her father. She refused to believe that people in the region are that critical or concerned over the US (and its wars), and she believes that US standing is not that bad in the region. But what got my attention was this: she said that "they" told Al-Hurra propaganda TV (which is independent of course) to cover more aspects of life in the US, and she gave the example of rodeo. She wants Al-Hurra TV to show Arabs some American Rodeo shows. So if I understand her correctly, she believes that Arabs (once they discover the beauty and splendor of rodeo) would change their minds about the war in Iraq, and about the Palestinian question. In fact, Arabs may go searching for wild camels and horses once they see those great footage on AlHurra TV. Stay tuned.
I am always amazed at those who change their ideological beliefs with the same frequency that they change their socks. The new Lebanese minister Trad Hamadah is one example. He started as a Marxist, and then became an Arab nationalist, and then joined the Fath Movement. Now, he is a minister representing Hizbullah. I will report further changes in his belief system as they become available.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Country Footpath in the Summer, c.1874. Renoir. Posted by Hello
"Germany's top-selling newspaper Bild was furious at the coverage of the new pope by British newspapers, which had accentuated Benedict XVI's past as a teenager in Nazi Germany."
Lest you forget: "liberation" continues in Afghanistan.
"Muslims Detained at Border Sue U.S. Homeland Security"

Hebron: under military occupation. Posted by Hello
The publisher of the Iraqi newspaper Al-Maharah said yesterday that Kuwait has stopped printing his newspaper due to his criticisms of US and UK, according to Al-Quds Al-`Arabi.
"Recent Violence Stirs Sectarian Tensions in Once-Quiet Basra"
"Pope Gregory XVI in an 1832 encyclical condemned freedom of conscience in society as an "absurd and erroneous teaching or rather madness." Pope Leo XIII in the 19th century condemned "the modern liberties" and opposed the equality and participation of citizens in civic and political life. The people, he wrote, are "the untutored multitude" that must "be controlled by the authority of law.""
"Iraq's rising industry: domestic kidnapping"
"AIPAC dumps officials suspected of passing classified U.S. data to Israel"

As if this is what Lebnon needs: a new sectarian political dynasty is born. Sa`d `Id-Din Al-Hariri is officially approved by Chirac. Posted by Hello
Only a newspaper in Pakistan took note: "Rafik Hariri's legacy includes a huge debt" (thanks `Ali)
To my friends (and others) at UCLA campus: I have lost my glasses on the campus (between Faculty Center, Guest House, and Bunche Building). It is in a black G. Armani case. If found, please take to Steve at the V.G. Center for ME studies. Thanks.
Angry Pope and...Bin Laden: So Angry Pope (still mad at that modernity and enlightenment thing) said that he agrees with Islamic criticisms of "the West of Christian tradition of moral decadence and the manipulation of human life." That is NOT the position of "Islam" whatever that is. It is however the repeated position of Bin Laden. In fact, the language with which Angry Pope agrees is the language of Bin Laden and his ilk. So did Angry Pope also agree with Oswald Spengler? Or did he think that Spengler's take was too soft and moderate for his taste.
PS: Many Germans did flee Hitler Youth, and many risked their lives to avoid recruitment. Not Angry Pope of course, whose infected finger prevented him from shooting with the anti-craft missile battery at which he was stationed. We still do not know whether Angry Pope's infected finger also prevented him from doing anything when he--by his own admission--witnessed Hungarian Jews being taken to death camps.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Angry Pontiff Pontificates:
" accused the U.S. military of abusing him, despite warnings from a senior Afghan official to keep quiet about any complaints."
"The West Bank: Siege mentality"
Angry Pope (not to be confused with Angry Arab (who is not Pope--but you never know). I do not mean to displease you, but you have some Angry Pope on your hands. In fact he is furious, and he is mad at postmodernism (and their "relative" values) and at modernity (not of course for the same reasons that Adorno and Horkheimer were mad at modernity in the brilliant Dialectic of Enlightenment). He also (no offense) finds your religion to be "deficient", unless you share his religion that is. And women in the workplace really bother him, and he wants governments to do something about that so that they do not "neglect" their families. And then there is Angry Pope during WWII. He admits that he saw Hungarian Jews being taken to the death camps, but he did not do or say anything to stop it. He says that he was forcibly recruited into Hitler's youth. But he also admits that he was stationed a Nazi anti-aircraft missile battery, but denies shooting at all. He says that his finger infection prevented him from being trained, but why would the Nazis station him there, if they did not train him. Angry Pope is hiding something (just as Waldheim did years ago), and the media will NOT be asking the tough questions of him. But Angry Arab will.
Angry Arab and Angry Audience: Today at UCLA, I realized this. I usually can tell who among the audience members are Angry Arab readers. Just this afternoon, when one audience member entered the room, I just could tell from her smile that she may be Angry Arab reader. So when she came afterwards to tell me, I told her that I guessed already. And for Persian food in LA: nothing beats Shehrezad (thanks Fatin). Shamshiri has a new management. Dont go there anymore.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005 to UCLA for a talk. Will return Thursday. You may visit here for a snack.
Please meet the new Pope. I shall call him Angry Pope. He is furious to have been born 5 centuries too late. (thanks enrique for the link)
"Liberating" by the throat: "Iraqi Lawmaker Says U.S. Soldier Grabbed His Throat" (thanks anonymous)
Splitting the Middle East: One "liberation" after another. I just heard on AlJazeera that a delegation from three predominantly Shi`ite governorates in southern Iraq is visiting Kurdistan to study their self-autonomous experience, in the hope of emulating it in the future.
I noticed that Bush has given an exclusive interview to the right-wing Lebanese LBC-TV. The interviewer is Paula Ya`qubian (who formerly worked for ART-TV and now works for LBC-TV, it seems). Her access to the White House may be due to her marriage to Muwaffaq Harb (director of Hurra-TV and Sawa Radio). In the interview he expressed outrage that Lebanon would allow a private militia to exist on its territory. The interviewer (who I have to admit is an excellent interviewer from what I saw of her in the past on ART) did not remind him that there are private militias in Iraq. I also notice that Bush cannot talk about Lebanon without having a silly smile on his face. I do not know why he finds the developments in Lebanon to be amusing.
There is a new Pope. There is a new pope. At 77, he was mostly chosen for his youth and vigor. "It is time that we represent the Catholic youth," said Vatican officials. What we know about the new Pope is that he is a firm believer in classical Church dogmas (the dogmas that produced witch-hunts, crusades, anti-Semitism, homophobia, intolerance, and misogyny). He is reportedly fiercely opposed to the "moderate approach" pursued by the last Pope toward Islam and Muslims. Am I bitter because I was not selected for the papacy? You be the judge.
Corruption continues in the Lebanese government. I read the names of the new Lebanese cabinet. Most are ok in that they do not come from the sleazy and corrupt backgrounds of most Lebanese politicians. Two are academics I know: Ghassan Salamah and Charles Rizq. Salamah is a fine Paris-based academic who became a Minister of Culture under Hariri in 2000. I disagreed with him on two matters: he organized the silly conference for La Francophonie in Beirut when he was Minister of Culture. I visited him at the time and expressed my strong opposition to the idea, and he told me that he did not care much about Francophnie but that this was the baby of the silent president (Lahhud). The second matter was his involvement in the UN effort in Iraq, which came to legitimize the American occupation. Salamah miraculously survived when the UN headquarters was bombed. Rizq is also a French-trained academic who was a moderate and secular intellectual aligned with the Shihabi effort in the 1960s. When he was director-general of the Ministry of Information in the late 1970s, right-wing fascist leader Bashir Gemayyel arranged for his kidnapping in the trunk of a car, and then he was brought to Gemayyel at his Lebanese Forces' headquarters (where Palestinians and Muslims were routinely tortured) who was angry at the news broadcasts of the Lebanese TV, and at Rizq's rejection of Gemayyel's plans to start his own private militia TV at the time. Rizq told me this account once in Ottawa. Both Rizq and Salamah are secular intellectuals who do not support the right-wing ideologies of the Phalanges and their supporters. But I was furious to see the name of Lahhud's son-in-law, Ilyas Murr. His father is one of the most (politically and financially) corrupt politicians in Lebanese history, who is able to shift from one camp to another at the drop of a hat--or the drop of a Tarbush. I detest puppets of foreign powers, but detest more puppets who switch allegiances frequently (like prime minister Najib Miqati, Michel Murr, Elie Hubayqah, Walid Jumblat, the list is too long to list exhaustively in Lebanon). (There is also a long list in Iraq too). Michel Murr was the political grandfather of Bashir Gemayyel when he was pushed by Israeli government as puppet president in 1982. My father knew Murr when he--my father--served as secretary-general of the Lebanese parliament--that is how I came to despise Lebanese politicians: you see them up close, you see them stealing sandwiches and office supplies), and I witnessed Murr's bribing of Lebanese members of parliament, and of the then speaker of parliament, Kamil As`ad, who (reportedly) sent the bribe (more than $10 million) to his account in Switzerland. Murr paid every single deputy (who showed up for the puppet election, and he installed a car phone for each deputy--it was a big thing in 1982). Later, when Israel's fortunes were broken in Lebanon, Murr quickly switched his allegiance to Syria, and established political and financial ties with key Syrian officials, and intelligence operatives. Prime minister Salim Huss told me in 2000 that he did not want Michel Murr in his cabinet in 1998, but that the Syrian government imposed Murr on him. And this silent president of Lebanon Lahhud: he insists on brining his own people perhaps because he does not know that he has little support, and probably no support at all among Christians. His son-in-law was made a Minister of Defense, but only because he Defended his father-in-law from political and personal attacks over the years. This silent Lebanese president is really clueless.
Oh, no. The mainstream press is now jumping on the Lebanese hummus story. Look at this silly sample from Slate.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Garden at Fontenay, 1874. Renoir.
 Posted by Hello